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Radio Time: The sound of our own voices

June 18, 2017

Brad Borkan and I were delighted to find ourselves and our book the subject of an hour-long online radio interview this week with the talented radio host Bonnie D.Graham, whose knack for probing questions and guided conversation can bring unexpected results.

Brad and I each know our book from our own perspective, and of course we’ve spent a good deal of time talking about it together in the last two years. But conversations are by nature transitory, their words soon consigned to the vague archives of memory. In contrast, this one is preserved in easily accessible digital format, for all to hear.

It’s something we can be proud of, that in giving voice to the ideas we have come to understand more deeply over time, we find we can share them from a place in the heart as well as from the intellectual processes of writing, editing, and publishing.

This is something you can only become aware of when you can listen to your own words, spoken in the moment, describing and illuminating the ideas–answering the questions, if you will, and then pondering the further implications of those answers from outside that moment.

Follow this link to hear for yourself: Extreme Decisions on the Radio: Brad Borkan and David Hirzel with Bonnie D. Graham

Let us know what you think.

There’s more to Public Speaking than just Talking

June 8, 2017

One of the many valuable things I learned on this most recent tour, was that in giving a book talk to a new audience, the connections being made are more important than the words spoken, or even the words written.

The study of all things Antarctic and the resulting books have added a depth and meaning to my life that would otherwise have been lacking. Working with Brad, creating “Extreme Decisions,” and then travelling—to Oslo for the SouthPole-sium v3 and to Dundee for the Shackleton Appreciation Society—to introduce it were their own reward. My talk on “The Livie Boatworks of Dundee” had a similar result.

But the experience having given three talks on two books, to three different audiences who had come together because of their own shared passions, gave me something new to think about.

It’s not about the words, it’s about the connections. All these people had come together, some at considerable expense from quite a distance, not just to hear us—there were plenty of other speakers and topics just as interesting—but to meet like-minded folk. And they did, renewing old friendships and forging new ones, on the spot.

Much like Brad and I did at the South-Polesium v2 in Croabh Haven.

Sure, we sold a few books. But the new relationships we came away with are worth more than gold.
They wouldn’t have happened without the conferences, which wouldn’t have happened without the many speakers and writers who came to share their ideas, each in turn with all of us who came to learn, to share, and to connect.

“When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision-Making Lessons from the Antarctic” International Book Launch: Oslo, May 13, 2017

May 27, 2017

Two Antarctic Conferences in one week. The timing could not have been better. The first to be scheduled was Rob Stephenson’s “SouthPole-sium” in Oslo, the third biennial meeting of like-minded Antarctic aficionados. Sixty-six of us—authors, scientists, veterans of the ice, book collectors, and most importantly by now, old friends and new—convened at the Fram Museum to meet, share ideas, learn, and grow.

It’s an informal gathering, with short presentations by the participants on a wide array of diverse topics: the contributions of W. S. Bruce and Thomas Bagshawe, archives at the Wilson in Cheltenham and the Byrd Polar Research Center at OSU, climate change and the emperor penguin, and much, much more.

Including the formal launch of our book. I met Brad Borkan at the SouthPole-sium v2 in Craobh Haven, Scotland, and there we hatched our plan to write our book. The first words were committed to .doc in a hotel in Glasgow on Monday after. But that is another story.

We were pleased to present, for the first time together, our new book When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision-making Lessons from the Antarctic. Our audience could not have been more supportive of our venture, and we spent much of the weekend in smaller conversations about our book, our experience, and the process of decision-making, with our friends.

Brad Borkan and David Hirzel present “Extreme Decisions”

The SouthPole-sium is a gathering that is not to be missed. But it was not the only such gathering in Europe during the week of May 13-May 20, 2017.

Hamilton at the Orpheum: Don’t throw away your SHOT!

April 10, 2017

Hamilton at the Orpheum: Don’t throw away your SHOT!

One thing the world doesn’t really need is another glowing review of the hit Broadway show Hamilton, just opened in San Francisco at the Orpheum. Here’s one anyway.

I was one of the fortunate few to see this show in the first week of its San Francisco run. And like everyone else in the seats, I left the theater singing. With this show, you just can’t help it. (“I’m not throwin’ away my . . . SHOT!“) The music ranges from the inescapably rhythmic (“My Shot”) to the powerfully uplifting (“Rise Up”) to the hauntingly beautiful () to the show’s final unanswered question (“Who’s Going to Tell Your Story”). If you’ve already become familiar with these from the soundtrack, you know what you’re going to like.

But you don’t know nuthin’ until you’ve seen them performed onstage.

The show is a visual feast. Here are some things you have to be there to know. A lighting design like no other, where the light shows are one with the sound, and when there is a tender moment in the action, there is a tender circle of light enclosing it; when there is explosion in the music, there is an explosion of light, brilliant and perfectly timed. There are some fascinating mechanics in the stage itself, a cinematic movement creating action even it seems beside the point of the action onstage. A wildly enduring choreography, never at rest but never intrusive, always perfectly timed and place. Costumes, color, orchestra, set design all work together in an extravagantly produced show. Better, I’ve heard, than the NY production.

Don’t worry about taking the cheap seats at the Orphem. Built in 1926, it retains ALL the details of its glory days. Even the last row balcony has an unobstructed—possibly better—view of the stage. Don’t forget to bring your opera glasses, though. Hamilton’s (Michael Luwoye) tear-streaked face when his bride Eliza (Solea Pfeiffer) forgives his errant ways give so much more passion and potency to the scene, elevating that lovely music to even greater heights. There are too many other stellar performances for me to name them all here. Go see for yourself.

The first half of the show, with its revolutionary fervor, its call to risk everything to fight for a cause you have put your faith in, has particular relevance today in the aftermath of the 2016 election. This is one show that can leave you singing a song that really comes from the heart.

Through August 5, 2017

Box Office: Hamilton at the SF Orpheum

Now in Print! “When Your Life Depends on It” co-authored by David Hirzel and Brad Borkan

February 16, 2017

We are pleased to announce the publication of our latest book “When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision-Making Lessons from the Antarctic.” Co-written by David Hirzel and Brad Borkan (London), this book uses epic true stories from the “heroic age” of Antarctic exploration to place the reader in those life and death situations and asks “How would you have responded?” Filled with compelling lessons in teamwork, leadership, camaraderie and sheer grit and determination that are as useful today as they were 100 years ago, this book reveals methods that you can immediately put to use in your personal and business life. What decisions would you make if your life depended on it?

Now available on To order click title here: “When Your Life Depends on It”
International book tour May 2017

On Confidence

January 31, 2017

There is such a thing as KNOWING you are right. This is not to be confused with BELIEVING you are right.

This seems to beg the question, “Right about what?” but I do not.

In every aspect of life that has some consequence, we are bound to consider the various paths of action, and having done so, choose one. In private life, in private decisions, the result of having chosen this path or that will have limited consequence. You gamble and win, you win; you gamble and lose, YOU lose. You risk your family’s fortunes and lose, you ALL lose.

It’s a different order of risk for generals and heads of state to rush forward on ill-considered paths, courses set by political obligations set in motion by the promises of an earlier campaign. A wrong decision dooms not the individual, but the nation, sometimes the world.

This is where KNOWING and BELIEVING part ways.

Mark Twain has a little parable about this, at the end of Chapter XIII of “Life on the Mississippi.” It’s about the responsibility that shipping pilots have, to the boats they are guiding, and everyone and everything on them. About not allowing yourself to be led astray from the path that you know is the right path by the voices all around you telling you to go this way or that.

It’s about knowing the right thing to do.

Not everyone seems to understand the distinction.

The Power of the Pen: On converting impulse to action

January 24, 2017

Now that the march is over, the time has come to take the next step. One of those steps will be to act in the thousands—the millions—to let every elected official in the country know that you have opinions as to the right course of action, and you expect them to be heard, and honored.

This will take work. It doesn’t have to be grueling, but if it’s too easy, it will carry too little weight. Clicking on a petition is easy; composing an email, deciding who to send it to, finding out where to send it, and then doing it again and again, is more akin to work.

Work is picking up the tools and using them. Think about what it is you want to say, then sit down at the keyboard and compose the letter. Not write—compose. Using .doc, shift the sentences and paragraphs around as needed, until the composition itself has power. This is more than just an opinion piece, this is a skillfully projected argument intended to sway the recipient—the congressman, the senator, the chief executive—to see things the way you do, and act accordingly. If you are haphazard in your presentation, you will be wasting your time and theirs.

Maybe you want to change the course of history, and stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency, or the approval of the oil pipelines, or the wholesale deportation of immigrants, or any of a host of other disastrous policies the new administration is considering. If you want to have any effect at all, you will have to start with reason and compelling argument, before resorting to emotional appeal. That has its own place in the dialog, but it is not the prime place.

Now you have the letter. Determine who among the power elite is most likely to be receptive, and start with them. Who will they be? Ask google. What is their address? Ask google. Who else should I contact? All your friends and acquaintances who you believe will share your opinions, and help to forward them along. Who else? Ask google.

What about those who I know won’t agree with me? Ask yourself, only you will know whether your arguments will persuade them.

The Power of the Pen is only one course of action. Not the most difficult—that is yet to come. But your voice, heard in the millions, will demonstrate its power.